Picturesque Greek Isle adventure benefits from stunning location shooting and an attractive cast. 3.5 Stars

The glories of Cinemascope were never better on display than in Jean Negulesco’s Boy on a Dolphin, a dramatic adventure featuring one of the world’s most picturesque stars, Sophia Loren, and with location filming off the Greek Isles and in Athens that is simply spectacular.

Boy on a Dolphin (1957)
Released: 19 Apr 1957
Rated: N/A
Runtime: 111 min
Director: Jean Negulesco
Genre: Adventure, Drama, Romance
Cast: Alan Ladd, Clifton Webb, Sophia Loren, Alexis Minotis
Writer(s): Ivan Moffat (screenplay), Dwight Taylor (screenplay), David Divine (novel)
Plot: Phaedra is a poor sponge diver on the lovely Greek isle of Hydra. While diving, she discovers an ancient brass and gold statue of a boy riding a dolphin, which is said to have the magical ...
IMDB rating: 6.3
MetaScore: N/A

Disc Information
Studio: Fox
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: None
Rating: Not Rated
Run Time: 1 Hr. 51 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 10/25/2016
MSRP: $29.95

The Production: 3.5/5

The glories of Cinemascope were never better on display than in Jean Negulesco’s Boy on a Dolphin, a dramatic adventure featuring one of the world’s most picturesque stars, Sophia Loren, and with location filming off the Greek Isles and in Athens that is simply spectacular. This new 4K restoration presents the film magnificently with lush color and wonderful clarity, possibly better than it looked even in its premiere engagements.

During one of her dives for sponges off the coast of Hydra to help put bread on the table, Phaedra (Sophia Loren) discovers a long lost vessel containing a two thousand-year old statue in gold and bronze of a young boy riding on the back of a dolphin. Local expatriate Dr. Hawkins (Laurence Naismith) knows the discovery is worth a lot of money if revealed to the right people, and he sends Phaedra to Athens to peddle her discovery to the richest bidder. She meets Dr. James Calder (Alan Ladd), an American archaeologist who has made it his mission to return ancient artifacts to their legal owners, and is quite taken with him, but she’s offered real money from wealthy treasure barterer Victor Parmalee (Clifton Webb) and makes a deal with him knowing her dire need of money if her younger brother Niko (Piero Giagnoni) is to have a chance in life or if she is to be able to marry her rather shiftless boy friend Rhif (Jorge Mistral). Parmalee wants Phaedra to stall Calder while he and his associates retrieve the statue, but it’s going to be hard for her since she’s falling in love with the handsome American and feels guilty about misleading him.

The Ivan Moffat-Dwight Taylor screenplay (adapted from the book by David Divine) rather soft pedals both the chase and the romantic aspects of the tale, offering a leisurely saga of treasure hunting that allows director Jean Negulesco to get the most out of his location shooting around the Greek Isles, the Parthenon in Athens, and several underwater excursions that feature all kinds of colorful fish and sea flora (interiors and some tank work with the stars was filmed in the Cinecitta Studios in Rome). The pacing might have been ramped up a little to put some stronger tension into the tale, and Negulesco working once again in Cinemascope doesn’t show quite as much dexterity here with placement of people and objects within the frame as he did in his earlier Cinemascope excursions like How to Marry a Millionaire and Daddy Long-Legs. But it all plays agreeably enough even if the climax is a trifle extended and the surprises somewhat anticlimactic.

Though third billed, Sophia Loren gets the lion’s share of the attention here. Becoming more and more of an international star by the day, the star is displayed in all manner of clothes and swimwear that show off her gorgeous figure, and the script works in a song and two folk dances for her to perform along with the standard acting scenes with big stars like Alan Ladd and Clifton Webb. As usual, Alan Ladd is likable and low-key, rarely showing a fiery temperament or strong emotion even in the few, very chaste love scenes. Clifton Webb plays one of his schemers here, suave and refined while knowingly breaking the law and yet looking on while others do the dirty work while he basks in his wealth and privilege without breaking a sweat. Laurence Naismith’s role is important in the early reels, but he rather fades in importance through much of the rest of the film drinking himself into stupors until rallying to provide the movie’s surprise ending. Jorge Mistral is assertive as the rough-and-tumble Rhif showing his true, greedy colors by film’s end, and Piero Giagnoni is an appealing younger brother without any obvious attempts to be precocious or endearing.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

Though the early scenes which offer a mini-travelogue of the Greek Isles in the Aegean and the main titles don’t give one great hope for a stunning transfer, things look up the moment those brief sequences end with absolutely awesome clarity and resounding color values that emphasize blue skies (and blue seas in a few shots) and marvelously appealing skin tones. Contrast has been consistently applied in this 1080p 2.35:1 Cinemascope transfer using the AVC codec, and the images are, after the titles, artifact free. The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.

Audio: 4/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 stereo sound mix is solid if a trifle underwhelming on occasion. Certainly, Hugo Friedhofer’s Oscar-nominated background score sounds lovely spread across the front soundstage, and the dialogue is always easy to understand. Atmospheric effects are somewhat subdued in the mix

Special Features: 1.5/5

Theatrical Trailer (2:25, SD)

Sophia Loren Promo Trailers (SD, HD): Five Miles to Midnight, Marriage Italian Style, Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow, Sunflower, Boccaccio 70.

Overall: 3.5/5

How wonderful that another 1950s Cinemascope classic, in this case Boy on a Dolphin, has come to Blu-ray in a magnificent transfer reflecting a new 4K restoration that brings out all the beauties of its locations and its cast.

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Matt Hough

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Robin9

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Many thanks for this review. I feel the same sense of relief that I did after reading Robert Harris's review of Strategic Air Command. I was worrying that both discs might have the same picture quality as The Enemy Below. I have Boy On A Dolphin on pre-order. I'm now really impatient!

I believe Sophia Loren's underwater sequences were done by her stunt double Scilla Gabel, who went on to have an acting career herself in films like Sodom and Gomorrah.
 
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john a hunter

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Thanks Matt for stating that it is in stereo. That was too much to ask from the two other reviews that I read.
So much for their expertise!.
 

skylark68

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Your review convinced me blind buy pre-order. I'm looking forward to it. Always loved the beauties of the Greek Isles (and Sophia Loren).
 
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Virgoan

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The complete Friedhofer score was issued on a stereo CD some years back. It is now out of print, but eBay searches usually turn up a copy or two for sale.

 
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Stephen PI

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Not quite sure if I replied in the correct thread, so I will repeat it here in response to RolandL's enquiry:

Yes I’m sure it did, as in most of the Fox films of this era. But as this is a 2-track mix-down, it cannot be as effectively directional as the discrete 4-track LCRS original.

I’ve already mentioned elsewhere on this forum what KL needed to do to ensure that the 4-track be requested (if it still survives) and laid back to the HD master. As I suspected, KL’s ignorance and /or, refusal to see that the product is done properly.

I’m going to wait to see if a foreign release, hopefully, will show up with the original 4-track.
 
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RolandL

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Not quite sure if I replied in the correct thread, so I will repeat it here in response to RolandL's enquiry:

Yes I’m sure it did, as in most of the Fox films of this era. But as this is a 2-track mix-down, it cannot be as effectively directional as the discrete 4-track LCRS original.

I’ve already mentioned elsewhere on this forum what KL needed to do to ensure that the 4-track be requested (if it still survives) and laid back to the HD master. As I suspected, KL’s ignorance and /or, refusal to see that the product is done properly.

I’m going to wait to see if a foreign release, hopefully, will show up with the original 4-track.
I remember some DVD's and laser discs had 2.0 and directional dialog with a Dolby pro-logic decoder.
 
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Dick

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The complete Friedhofer score was issued on a stereo CD some years back. It is now out of print, but eBay searches usually turn up a copy or two for sale.

Grab it if you can. Just beautiful.
 

Ken Koc

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It was a favorite growing up and I was thrilled to see Big on a Dolphin Blu Ray 4k tonight . After seeing pan and scan so many years....this was wonderful to see and to hear that glorious score in stereo! Glad I do have the cd.
 

Robin9

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It was a favorite growing up and I was thrilled to see Big on a Dolphin Blu Ray 4k tonight . After seeing pan and scan so many years....this was wonderful to see and to hear that glorious score in stereo! Glad I do have the cd.
I watched it last night and I, too, am delighted. This disc is superb.

The other day I was in the mood for a light-hearted and glamorous film with attractive actors and actresses. I was stuck. I found myself wishing I didn't know North By Northwest so well, that I didn't find James Bond films so juvenile, that I didn't find Charade so empty. I solved my problem. I suddenly remembered The Pink Panther and watched that. In future, when I'm in that mood, I'll watch Boy On a Dolphin. It's beautiful to look at, Clifton Webb is superb as always, Alan Ladd is surprisingly credible as a dedicated archaeologist, Sophia Loren is a magnificent specimen of womanhood and the music is excellent.
 

rdimucci

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Thanks Matt for stating that it is in stereo. That was too much to ask from the two other reviews that I read.
So much for their expertise!.
Many of the video companies are no help in this regard, merely listing the sound on their packaging as "2.0". That raises the question as to whether the disc is in 2.0 dual-channel mono, 2.0 front stereo, or 2.0 matrixed surround. Here we are told that it is in stereo. But did the reviewer run the sound through a Pro-logic decoder to ascertain whether it contains any surround information?

Just as a point of interest, the review at DVD Savant says "The original show is said to have been mixed and distributed in 4-track magnetic stereo, but I think the track on Kino’s disc is mono."
 
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Konstantinos

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Who in Europe could pick this up and release it?
I'd love to have it (although I've never seen it), but I would prefer a version with English subtitles..

It's funny, I always knew that song (my mom worked at a Greek radio station and made shows with such kind of old Greek songs), but I didn't know until some years ago that it was from a Hollywood movie and composed by a Hollywood composer. I have a hunch neither did she.
 
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Robin9

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The state of the boutique market is such that a European release sooner or later is inevitable.
 

Dick

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I’ve already mentioned elsewhere on this forum what KL needed to do to ensure that the 4-track be requested (if it still survives)
I have emboldened the operative phrase in your post. Why come down hard on KL when you don't know for a fact that it does survive?